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The Sangha Situation: Nowhere to Go

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A Reader recently wrote:
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I’ve been wondering, since I’m in a non-buddhist area, what could I substitute?

So I’ve started going to church, Christian church, so that I can get involved in a religious society and serve for the better.

I haven’t told anyone at the church yet that I’m actually a Buddhist, and I’m deciding the best way to do this.

It’s a non-denominational church so I think they would be more open.

It just seems I need to have sangha to complete the 3 jewels. Any suggestions?

Thank you

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My Response:
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Many Christian churches wouldn’t support that; some might even outright condemn you. Some churches may accept it, but only you are in a position to judge. If you do tell them, don’t be surprised if they give you the cold shoulder. They may not, but you have to consider that they might. If they do accept you, then you have to work on reconciling the two systems (Christianity/Buddhism) in your own mind, but that’s a post for another time.

This “Sangha Situation” seems to come up a lot here in the West. There just isn’t anywhere for a lot of Buddhists to go. The wide availability of books, broadcasting, and the Internet are causing Buddhism to grow in places where the tradition Buddhist support structures just don’t exist.

“Taking refuge in the sangha” does not necessarily mean you have to go to church every week.

Technically, the word “sangha” translates to “community,” not necessarily “church,” although it’s often interpreted that way. You can do your service in nearly any capacity that serves other people. There are almost certainly many opportunities to volunteer in your area that don’t have anything to do with a church. If you are helping remove suffering in some way, there is nothing more Buddhist than that.

It would be nice if you had a regular Buddhist group to meet with, but that’s simply not possible in many areas in the West. For Buddhist discussions and community, many people turn to the Internet. It’s not a perfect substitute for “live” contact, but you can learn and teach and support others, and that’s really what a “sangha” is all about.

Good luck, and let me know if I can help further. If anyone reading this has further suggestions, please post them below.

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4 comments to The Sangha Situation: Nowhere to Go

  • Bill

    There are many sites that offer a wealth of audio teachings and talks that were recorded in Sanghas by both known and not-so-known teachers. My favorite is http://www.audiodharma.org
    Though I am fortunate enough to have a local sangha that I attend regularly, I still utilize this site. It offers additional teachings that aren’t necessarily covered in my sangha.

    Peace.

  • Mel

    Hi,

    I am one of a few distance online classmates who listen in to a live dharma class weekly which is downloadable. It is offered by Dr Thynn Thynn at her dharma centre. The class is called Meditation in Daily Life. Her website is http://www.saetawwin2.org

    Metta

  • Matt

    See if there’s a Unitarian Universalist church in your area, they may have a Buddhist group. From the national organization’s website(http://www.uua.org):

    Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion that encompasses many faith traditions. Unitarian Universalists include people who identify as Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans, Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, and others. As there is no official Unitarian Universalist creed, Unitarian Universalists are free to search for truth on many paths.

    I attend Horizon UU Church in Carrollton, TX (suburb of Dallas), where we have a Sangha which meets weekly.

  • Debbie

    I recommend a Unitarian Universalist church. I attend a small church here in my area. The congregation is not exactly Buddhist, but they are interested in Buddhism. There are many who want to talk about it and explore it. We also have people come to talk about buddhism as well. Another bonus for our congregation is the concept of community service is a huge part of who we are. Good luck! and the website the other person posted will allow you to plug in your area code and tell you of churches in your area. Good luck.